Media release

Foundation awards $53,140 in grants for services to RI’s LGBTQ communities

Grant will fund everything from civil rights advocacy for families and youth to improving quality of health care.

The Rhode Island Foundation announced today that eight nonprofit organizations serving the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities will share $53,140 in grants through its Equity Action Fund. The funding will support organizations engaged in efforts ranging from civil rights advocacy for families and youth to improving the delivery of health care.

The Equity Action Fund supports projects that meet the needs of the LGBTQ communities in Rhode Island. Guided by a volunteer advisory committee comprised of leaders in the LGBTQ communities, the fund has made more than $1 million in grants to dozens of organizations over the years.

“These organizations strive to ensure the health, safety and fair treatment of every LGBTQ Rhode Islander. In these exceptionally challenging times, the work of these organizations is even more crucial as COVID-19 isolates and restricts social activities, creating additional barriers to services and programs."

- Adrian Bonéy, who oversees the Equity Action Fund grant program at the Foundation

GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) received $10,000 to support its ongoing youth and civil rights advocacy in Rhode Island. The work includes holding semiannual roundtables of LGBTQ advocates, providing legal support to families of LGBTQ students and strengthening the state’s protective legal framework for the LGBTQ community.

“We are able to share resources regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and brainstorm the best way to make sure that crucial information reaches our communities,” said Janson Wu, executive director.

Among the organization’s priorities is passage of the Rhode Island Parentage Act, which updates Rhode Island law to clarify who can be a parent and how to establish parentage. That follows passage of legislation last year setting guidelines for accurately reporting on death certificates the gender of a deceased transgender person and state Department of Education policy requiring school districts to adopt transgender-inclusive policies.

New Urban Arts in Providence received $4,000 to support the Untitlement Leadership Project, in which low-income youth serving on New Urban Arts' youth leadership board use writing and art to explore issues of identity, including gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"We prepare students to be inclusive, thoughtful leaders. They will hone their skills in leadership and peer education, and plan student orientation activities for the school year, with the goal of ensuring that our studio is a safe space for all and that students are ready to stand up for LGBTQ equity," said Daniel Schleifer, executive director.

Project Weber/RENEW received $10,000 to support its project "Beyond the Understanding of Gender”, which reaches out to high-risk trans individuals through street-based outreach, peer connections and social media.

“Trans people experience numerous structural barriers to social and health care services, as well as significantly higher HIV incidence compared to cisgender people. We aim to mitigate these disparities by providing accessible and welcoming harm reduction services and linkage to health care,” said Colleen Daley Ndoye, executive director.

“The initiative connects individuals to harm reduction services, case management, peer support services and a weekly peer-led support group for high-risk transgender and gender-diverse community members. Because of our peer-driven direct service model, we are uniquely situated to reach those least likely to be engaged in other health care settings,” said Daley Ndoye.

SAGE-Rhode Island received $6,000 to provide training, curriculum development and resource materials to long-term care and assisted living facilities to ensure LGBT culturally competent care. SAGE-RI is dedicated to improving the quality of life for older LGBT adults, through service, education and advocacy.

"According to national surveys, a growing population of LGBT older adults continue to face lack of inclusion and risk of discrimination in health care and residential settings. Vulnerability increases with advancing age, leading to poor health outcomes for those who feel isolated or unwelcome”, according to Professor Patricia Burbank of SAGE-RI.

Building on a previous Equity Action-funded workshop series entitled “Promoting Quality Care for LGBT Older Adults,” SAGE-RI will provide on-line training, and curriculum materials for nursing and certified nursing assistant staff development, as well as resources for activities staff, policy guidelines and materials to help facilities increase their visibility as culturally inclusive.

Sojourner House received $5,000 to provide shelter, housing and supportive services to LGBTQ victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. The supportive services will include clinical therapy, support groups, one-on-one advocacy, empowerment education, free HIV testing, sexual health education and financial literacy education.

"We are committed to working to end domestic violence in all communities. Intimate partner violence affects the LGBTQ individuals at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, yet the issue is seldom addressed in the community," said Vanessa Volz, executive director.

In addition, Sojourner plans to provide training and education on LGBTQ abuse and cultural competency issues to at least 100 law enforcement and social services professionals.

"Individuals who identify as LGBTQ experience abuse at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender peers and they experience unique barriers that keep them trapped in abusive situations. Having programming that understands and addresses these unique needs is critical in order to break the cycle of abuse and keep LGBTQ victims safe," said Volz.

Thundermist Health Center in Warwick received $8,000 to support its Trans Health and Wellness Program, which targets adults ages 18 to 25. The grant will enable the organization to expand its on-line social- and community-building events to improve the physical and mental health and wellness of the trans community.

“In the time of COVID-19, these activities are more important than ever. Many participants regularly connect virtually with people they met through the program and are bolstered by those relationships. This is particularly important for our many young adult participants who are stuck at home with family who do not support their identity,” said Jayeson Watts, director of the Trans Health Access Team.

The goal is to stage 50 virtual events per year. The programing includes yoga, fitness classes, music therapy and game night. Thundermist serves more than 800 patients through its Trans Health and Wellness Program.

“For many people, these programs are often their first interaction with us. As a result, then they feel safe enough to enter medical or behavioral health care,” said Watts. “Then, there are people who already are patients, but lack a connection to the broader trans community. Our program can be a path into a larger community where they can find support.”

The Steel Yard in Providence received $1,140 to support Camp Sparkle, which trains LGBTQ+ youth ages 14 to 18 in the industrial arts such as learning jewelry- and metal-smithing techniques, welding and large-scale fabrication.

"By empowering LGBTQ+ youth and building community within the industrial arts, we hope to foster free expression of gender and sexuality in an environment of self-discovery and creativity. The camps provide a welcoming, safe environment where youth can explore and express their identities within the space of making," said Adam Chuong, Course Coordinator of the Steel Yard.

The curriculum includes a strong focus on the development of personal resiliency and agency through understanding and affirmation of personal identities and acquisition of skills in small- and large-scale metals fabrication.

"This will be a safe and empowering environment for LGBTQ+ youth to gain skills in jewelry and welding that may lead to a creative arts practice or even a profession in the trades. Our goal is to uplift the voices of queer people—all instructors and speakers identify as queer—and to affirm and normalize their identities and experiences," said Chuong.

Youth Pride in Providence received $9,000 to support professional development offered through virtual workshops and trainings to decrease homophobia and transphobia in Rhode Island schools, organizations, facilities and businesses.

"Our workshops are developed and presented by our youth leaders and staff. Each workshop is geared towards building allies and improving supports for LGBTQ* youth and young adults on an individual and systemic level," said Elana Rosenberg, executive director.

The organization tailors workshop content to the needs and goals of the intended audience, such as developing supportive school staff or increasing the competency of youth-facing organizations or businesses. The workshops are interactive, experiential and centered on youth voice.

"Because of the pandemic, this is a timely addition to our capacity. Creating virtual presentations expands our capacity to affect change with an even wider audience across Rhode Island and beyond," said Rosenberg.

The announcement comes as the Foundation’s Equity Action Fund celebrates its 16th anniversary. The public can support the fund’s work by donating to it here.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $47 million and awarded $56 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2019. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.